Chef’s Recipes: July 4th

(These recipes came from Bay Area chefs and were published in the San Jose Mercury News and its affiliated newspapers on June 29, 2011)

Since Independence Day is usually a day off in the restaurant world, chefs — including those not born in the United States — often celebrate this holiday like the rest of us do by cooking with friends and family.  The difference is that what they cook is likely to be outstanding, if simple.   Try the following recipes to give your 4th of July event a special zing.

Grilled  Ratatouille

– Bruno Chemel, Baumé

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes to 1½  hours

 Serves 8

– 2 medium globe eggplants
– 3 zucchini
– 4 tomatoes
– 2 onions
– 4 cloves garlic
– 8 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

– 3 teaspoons of chopped fresh basil
– 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
– A bit of freshly ground pepper
– 1 teaspoon sea salt


1.  Cut the eggplant into medium slices, cutting horizontally. Slice the zucchini horizontally.  Slice the tomatoes. Peel and chop the onions. Peel and crush the garlic.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet (or other heavy, oven-proof skillet) and sauté onions and garlic until soft. Remove from skillet and hold. Salt the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes and grill them on both sides on a medium-heat grill.  They will be softened but need not be completely cooked. Layer the eggplant and zucchini in the skillet, top with the cooked onions and put the tomatoes on top.  Cover the skillet and move it to the side of the grill while other items are being cooked on the grill. Let ratatouille cook for about one hour.  Vegetables will be soft.

3. Finish with pepper and stir in the chopped herbs.  Adjust seasonings if needed.

Bali-Style Five-Spice Barbecued Pork Spare Ribs

– Chris Yeo, Straits and Sino


2 racks pork spare ribs

Spare Rib Rub

½ cup  Chinese 5-spice powder

½  tablespoon  salt

1/8 cup sugar

Chili Paste

8 oz dried California chili pods (also known as Anaheim chiles; or use other mild dried chiles like pasilla, ancho or poblano)

4 oz dried Tianjin chilies (available in Asian markets; other small, hot dried red chiles can be substituted)

Spare Rib Sauce

½  cup vegetable oil

1 white onion, roughly chopped

1 red onion, roughly chopped

2 stalks lemongrass, cleaned and roughly chopped

¾ cup garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

¾ cup galangal, peeled and roughly chopped (available in Asian markets and in some grocery stores)

¾ cup ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

Half  a red Fresno chile pepper, stemmed and sliced (fresh jalapeno can be substituted; if desired, remove seeds and ribs from the chosen chile to reduce the amount of heat)

2 tablespoons sesame oil

¼  cup  water

3 cups Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce; available in Asian markets)

3 tablespoons salt

1/8  cup sugar

¾ cup chile paste (see below)


  • Chili Paste- Soak the dried chilies overnight in a large stock pot with enough water to cover and then weigh down the chilies with a bowl to keep the chilies submerged.  The next day, simmer the chilies in the same stock pot for about 25 minutes until soft and tender.  Strain the chilies from the cooking liquid and reserve this liquid.  In a food processor, puree the chilies until smooth and add just enough of the cooking liquid to form a thick red paste.
  • Spare Rib Rub-     In a mixing bowl, combine the 5 spice, salt and sugar and mix well.
  • Sprinkle the 5-spice rub all over the 2 racks of pork ribs on all sides.  Cover and refrigerate overnight so that the rub can flavor and penetrate the meat.

 Spare Rib Sauce

  • In a wok, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onions, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, ginger and peppers. Continue to cook until the lemongrass becomes translucent.
  • In a large blender, combine the chili paste, sesame oil, water and Kecap Manis. Then add the sautéed vegetables and blend the mixture until smooth.

Cooking the spare ribs-

  • Put the spare ribs on the grill set to medium-low heat.  Baste the ribs with the spare rib sauce while cooking for the first 15-20 minutes.  Remember: low and slow is the proper way to cook these ribs; low heat and a long cooking time.  This should take about 1-1.5 hours depending on the size of your ribs.  You can tell when the ribs are done when the meat is caramelized, and tender, falling off the bone.

Indian Summer Salads

– Shachi Mehra

Watermelon “Chaat”


4 cups seedless watermelon, medium dice

½ medium red onion, thinly sliced

Juice and zest of ½ a lime

½ Serrano chili, seeded and minced

½ bunch fresh mint, chopped

½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

½ teaspoon chaat masala (a tangy mix of 13 spices, available at Indian markets)

Pinch of sugar (optional)


In a large bowl, combine watermelon, red onion and Serrano chili.  Add lime juice, zest, mint, cilantro, chaat masala and sugar, if using.  Toss gently and serve chilled.


This salad is also delicious with the addition of 1 cup feta cheese; add the diced feta when ready to serve and replace chaat masala with fresh ground black pepper.

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets and Citrus

Serves 4


1 cup uncooked quinoa (available at natural foods stores such as Whole Foods)

1 ¾ cup water

¼  teaspoon salt

4 medium beets, roasted, peeled and quartered

2 oranges, peeled and segmented

8-10 kumquats, seeded and sliced

½  bunch cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clementine, juiced, or if not available, use 2 tablespoons orange juice

3 tablespoon orange juice

Pinch of salt

Pinch of sugar

¼ teaspoon chaat masala


Rinse and drain quinoa thoroughly in a fine-mesh strainer.  Combine water, salt and quinoa in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and fluff with a fork; you should be able see a thread on each grain.   Spread on a baking sheet to cool.  If cooking ahead of time, once cool, cooked quinoa can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge.

Meanwhile, whisk together orange juice, Clementine juice, salt, sugar and chaat masala.  Slowly add in olive oil, whisking constantly.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

To assemble salad:  In a large bowl, add cooked, cooled quinoa, orange segments, kumquats and herbs.  Toss with dressing.   Gently mix in the beets.  Garnish with cilantro sprigs.


This salad can easily be modified with the addition of fresh goat cheese or diced avocado.

Also, for a tasty entrée, make twice the dressing and use as a marinade for shrimp.  Marinate shrimp for about 30 minutes and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side or until they are golden brown on both sides and cooked through.  Serve on top of quinoa salad with a lime wedge.


Red Velvet Cake

– Veronica Laramie, Élevé


2 ½ cups + 10 tablespoons cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cocoa powder, Dutch process
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1½  cups oil (canola or vegetable)
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

12 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
12 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
1½  teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup toasted pecan pieces (optional)


Measure and add all the dry ingredients to a mixer bowl. Separately, measure all wet ingredients. With the paddle attachment, incorporate all wet into dry ingredients until well mixed.
Put in a baking pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350F.
Let cake cool at room temperature.

Mix with paddle attachment cream cheese with butter until well incorporated and whipped, add vanilla and powdered sugar little by little.

If making a cake, cut it down the middle and frost it in between and on top.
If making cupcake sizes, pipe frosting on top.
Sprinkle on pecans.

Agnello in Fossa (pit-cooked lamb)

– Donato Scotti, Donato Enoteca

(While pit-cooking lamb results in incredibly succulent, tender meat, the recipe below offers an alternative, oven-roasted version as well.)


1 leg or shoulder of lamb

1/2 cup fresh rosemary, stalks removed

2 T fresh thyme leaves

6-7 cloves of peeled garlic

3 cups of dry white wine

Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


Mixed peppercorns


2 yellow onions

3 large Yukon potatoes


Marinate the lamb with thyme , rosemary , olive oil and smashed garlic cloves. Add the wine and let it rest overnight.

Place the lamb and the marinate in a roasting pan and cover with banana leafs and/or aluminum foil ( you can add the potato and onion in the pan as well, cut in large wedges).

For the pit:

Dig a hole that’s 4 feet deep and as wide as the pan you will use to cook the meat. Burn about 20 lbs of charcoal and 4-5 logs of almond wood in the pit and wait until all the fire is gone.

Put a few bricks on the ashes and place the roasting pan on top of it in order to have a small air gap between the charcoal and the pan. Cover the roasting pan with an old baking sheet (this will keep the dirt out and make it easier to dig out).

Cover the pit with the dirt. Make sure the roasting pan has a handle that you can hook and lift out of the pit.

Approximate cooking time is about 15 hours, which produces meat that is very juicy , tender and flavorful .


Cook a pork leg in similar fashion, reducing cooking time to about 10 hours due to the smaller size.

Oven method:

Place all the ingredients in a roasting pan with fitting lid. Make a “pasta matta” (Italian for crazy dough, which is water and flour with a very soft consistency). Use the pasta matta to seal the lid on to the roasting pan.

Place in the oven for 6-8 hours at 325.


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